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Book released on defence of Vietnamese islands against Chinese invaders

Researcher Vo Ha has released the book Trường Sa 1988 – Hồ Sơ Một Sự Kiện Lịch Sử  (Trường Sa 1988 – A Dossier on a Historical Incident) on the protection and development of Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago of Vietnam,

 focusing on the protection of Gac Ma (Johnson), Colin and Len Dao reefs in Vietnam’s Truong Sa Islands against Chinese invasion 33 years ago.

Historical researcher Vo Ha poses with his book 'Trường Sa 1988 – A Dossier on a Historical Incident' in Da Nang. His book collects 159 articles on the fight of Vietnam navy soldiers in the protection of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, Vietnam, in 1988. Photo courtesy of Vo Ha 

The 300-page book, which was printed and published by the Da Nang Publishing House and Phanbook in 2021, is one of the most fully documented collection of documents, stories, reports and articles on the protection of the Spratlys, particularly the brave fight of Vietnamese naval soldiers against Chinese invaders on Gac Ma (Johnson) reef on March 14, 1988.

It’s a collection of 159 articles published in two newspapers – Nhân Dân (the People) and Quân Đội Nhân Dân (the People’s Army) – written by 39 reporters from February to June of 1988, before and after the incident, featuring the tense situation in the waters off Truong Sa Islands of Vietnam.

'Trường Sa 1988 – ' A Dossier on a Historical Incident' is available at book stores in Vietnam. The 300-page book is sold at VND315,000. Photo courtesy of Vo Ha 

Ha, 37, who is works at the Da Nang’s party committee’s Publicity and Education Commission, said he began working with a data store on the country’s sovereignty on seas and islands in 2011, which he was initially unfamiliar with, during his study at Da Nang University’s history teacher's training faculty.

“Many documents and articles in the data store were collected and complied following incidents that occurred on Truong Sa 33 years ago. A series of leading articles, diplomatic notes, and reports from the two newspaper report truly what happened on the islands,” Ha said.

Tran Van Lanh, a naval soldier, who was wounded in the defensive fight at Gac Ma (Johnson) Reef in 1988, joins a memorial service in honour of navy martyrs during the fight. VNS Photo Cong Thanh 

“I recognise there is a blanket in history documenting Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel), which was inadequately included in the school curriculum, especially beyond the normalisation of Vietnam-China ties in 1990,” he said.

Ha said young generations of Vietnamese should know deeply of the historical records and documents on the fight and protection of seas and islands by previous generations.

In his foreword to the book, Ha wrote: “China illegally occupied some parts of Truong Sa Islands between 1976-1988, and the fight of the Gac Ma (Johnson) reef was an outbreak of the 22-year-invasion by China of Vietnam’s islands and seas.”

”In 1974, China invaded west of the Paracels and illegally occupied the entire Hoang Sa Island under management of the Republic of Vietnam, or the Sai Gon administration.”

The book also highlights the strong will and spirit of Vietnamese people in protection of the country’s sovereignty of the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes, which Vietnam has continuously exercised and managed from the 17th to 19th century and until today, he added.

A photo taken by a Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reporter at the pier of Truong Sa Islands, off the coast of Khanh Hoa Province. VNS Photo Cong Thanh 

The book includes five parts: General information on China illegally taking reefs on Vietnam’s Truong Sa Islands by force in 1988; Declaring Vietnam's sovereignty of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos and legal historical evidence from 1988; International opinions on China’s infringement and illegal actions on Truong Sa Islands in 1988. The fourth and fifth parts depict support from Vietnamese people heading to Truong Sa Islands and life on Truong Sa Islands.

A document in the book reveals that China mobilised a fleet of 40 ships with 1,000 naval soldiers for the invasion of Truong Sa Islands. About 20 ships including guided missile destroyers, frigates and disguised fishing vessels began illegally operating in water off Truong Sa from the middle of 1987.

China occupied Chữ Thập (Tizard bank or Fiery Cross Reef) on January 31, 1988, before illegally landing on Chau Vien (London Reef) on February 18, the Gaven Reef on the 26th, and Hughes Reef on the 28th.

Between December of 1987 and March of 1988, Vietnam sent transport ships and engineers to build and protect Da Dong (East London Reef), Da Tay (West London Reef), Da Lat (Ladd Reef), Tien Nu (Pigeon Reef/Tennent Reef), Toc Tan (Alison Reef), Nui Le (Cornwallis South Reef) and Da Lon (Discovery Greet Reef).

A cargo ship leaving for Truong Sa Islands on a sea trip at Cam Ranh Port of Khanh Hoa Province on display at an exhibition of Vietnam News Agency (VNA). Ships often carry logistics to people and soldiers living in the islands. VNS Photo Cong Thanh 

In March 1988, China sent 12 naval ships including a guided missile destroyer and seven frigates to Truong Sa Islands. Meanwhile, Vietnam reserved only transport ships and mostly engineers to build on Gac Ma (Johnson Reef), Colin (Collins Reef) and Len Dao (Lansdowne Reef) in the area of Sinh Ton (Sin Cowe Island).

Three naval transport vessels of Vietnam (HQ 604, HQ 604 and HQ505) and a team of 70 engineers with construction materials were sent to reinforce infrastructures on Gac Ma, Colin and Len Dao reefs from March 11-14, 1988.

A group of four Vietnamese soldiers were assigned to land on the Gac Ma reef in the night of March 13. However, a Chinese guided missile destroyer and other armed naval ships launched fire on Vietnamese transport ships and navy soldiers on guard at the reef in the early morning of March 14.

An article by Ngoc Dan, published on Nhân Dân newspaper on March 24, 1988, reported that Chinese warships (No 556, 653, 552, 505, 502) attacked Vietnamese ships in waters off Gac Ma and Colin reefs.

Chinese ship 505 rammed the anchored HQ 604 ship of Vietnam before sending a motorboat with an armed group of 71 sailors to attack the Vietnamese flagged Gac Ma Reef.

The Chinese forces, who failed in the fight against an unarmed defence of Vietnamese naval engineers, fired on Vietnamese flag holder Tran Van Phuong in an effort to grab the Vietnamese flag.

Chinese war ship 502 began firing artillery at the Vietnamese HQ 604 ship and 40 Vietnamese engineers on the Gac Ma Reef, while other Chinese war ships (552 and 556) also launched artillery fire on Vietnamese ship HQ-505 in Colin Reef and HQ-605 in Len Dao Reef at the same time.

Two Vietnamese ships HQ-604 and HQ-605 were sunk, but the captain of HQ-505, Vu Phi Tru, quickly decided to land the ship on the rear of Colin Reef, marking the country’s sovereignty of the reef, the article said.

Another article showed that 64 Vietnamese naval soldiers were killed in action or missing after artillery attacks by Chinese ships, while 10 others were seized by Chinese force (they were released by the Chinese in 1991).

Chinese illegally occupied the reef by force, and even hindered Vietnamese rescue ships from saving wounded and killed Vietnamese soldiers at sea, other articles reported.

The book's author Vo Ha said it’s the first book that unveils the detailed defensive actions of Vietnamese soldiers against cruel Chinese attackers in the fight off Gac Ma Reef.

March 14 has an annual memorial service honouring the 64 Vietnamese naval soldiers who were killed in the fight to protect Gac Ma Reef, from Chinese invaders on March 14, 1988. 

Nguyen Van Lanh, who joined the battle in 1988, said: “They [Chinese soldiers] attacked Vietnamese soldiers to snatch the flag with a manual battle, but they failed. A Chinese sailor fired at Vietnamese flag holder Tran Van Phuong, but I kicked the gun out of the Chinese man’s hand before taking the flag.”

“I was stabbed by a bayonet in my back, shoulder and chest, but we kept holding the national flag to protect the country’s sovereignty.” 

Veterans of Gac Ma Reef join a memorial event in Da Nang City. 64 Vietnamese naval soldiers were killed in action at Gac Ma in 1988. VNS Photo Cong Thanh 

“Chinese soldiers then returned to their ships and began firing artillery on unarmed Vietnamese naval engineers on the reefs and our ships to kill our team,” he said.

Many martyrs lost their lives at sea, and their souls live on in the country’s history. Nine martyrs were from Da Nang and 14 from Quang Binh Province.

The brave fight on Gac Ma Reef helped the Vietnamese navy protect two other reefs – Co Lin and Len Dao – from attacks by Chinese forces.

Tran Van Thoa, a 'prisoner' of the Gac Ma fight, has since opened a restaurant, named Gac Ma, in Quy Nhon City, Binh Dinh, to earn a living and to rendezvous with his valiant fellow soldiers. 

Source: Vietnam News

Chinese book recognises Vietnam’s sovereignty over archipelagos

Chinese book recognises Vietnam’s sovereignty over archipelagos

Many ancient writings, recorded by foreigners themselves, directly or indirectly recognise Vietnam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagos of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly). 

33 years of Gac Ma battle

33 years of Gac Ma battle

33 years ago, on March 14 1988, 64 Vietnamese soldiers sacrificed their lives in the battle of protecting Gac Ma (Johnson South), Colin and Len Dao (Lansdowne) Reefs, part of the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago.


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